If you run road races, or the 10k on the track, you probably are aware of the timing chip strap that goes on your shoe. This is RFID technology or Radio Frequency Identification.
It’s not a big deal: your name and personal info is embedded on that chip and every time you cross the start or finish line, a blip is recorded making your time very accurate.
Take it one step further, and I’ve seen RFID used in United States I-94 entry visa cards.
Of course, this brings up issues such as privacy and identity theft associated with having your personal information embedded in a microchip.
The article from sportsillustrated.cnn.com discusses the pros and cons of using RFID technology in a high profile event.
RFID Olympic Tickets
Tickets for the Olympic Games opening and closing ceremonies are embedded with a microchip containing personal information including the ticket holder’s photograph, passport details, addresses, e-mail and telephone numbers!
The most expensive ticket is for the August 8, 2008, Olympic Games opening ceremonies is reportedly over $700. The second most expensive ticket is the Men’s 110 meter Hurdles Finals. Gee, I wonder why?
Otherwise, tickets are about $50 for the evening Athletics (Track and Field) sessions and under $10 for the morning qualifying sessions.
Here is the full article from sportsillustrated.cnn.com
Concern about privacy, identity theft with microchipped Olympic tickets
BEIJING (AP) – China has ratcheted up surveillance and security in every phase of the Beijing Olympics – even the tickets.
In a move unprecedented for the Olympics, tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies are embedded with a microchip containing the bearer’s photograph, passport details, addresses, e-mail and telephone numbers.
The intent is to keep potential troublemakers from the 91,000-seat National Stadium for the high-profile ceremonies. Along with terrorists, China’s authoritarian government fears protesters might unfurl Tibet flags, anti-China banners or even T-shirts adorned with political messages.
Tickets for the Aug. 8 opening ceremony are the most expensive of the games – a top price of $720 – and many are in the hands of dignitaries and friends.
The inclusion of such personal data on the microchips had raised concerns about privacy and potential identity theft, as well as threatening chaos at the turnstiles as officials try to match to tickets to attendees, creating bad publicity on opening night.
“They should be concentrating on sniffing out the kinds of dangerous stuff rather than worrying about the identity of the people with the tickets,” said Roger Clarke, an Australian security expert. His Xamax Consultancy in Canberra advises businesses in online security and identity authentication.
“The way in which you recognize an evildoer, somebody who wants to throw a bomb, somebody who wants to unfurl a Tibet flag is not on the basis of their identity,” Clarke added. “It’s the act that they perform and it’s the materials they carry with them.”
China was toughened visa restrictions and increased checks at hotels and entertainment areas – all designed to keep track of foreigners as the games approach. Several large public gatherings have been canceled. Thousands of closed-circuit TV cameras will be deployed in and around the venues. Organizers have acknowledged that some security officials will be dressed in volunteer uniforms. Passengers riding the subway and major bus routes will also undergo strict checks.
China has developed some of the world’s most advanced RFID (radio frequency identification) technology, some aimed at keeping tight control over its citizens and borders. It’s used on Chinese driver’s licenses and ID cards.
Chinese authorities initially considered tying all 6.8 million tickets to individuals, which was attempted two years ago in soccer’s World Cup in Germany. German officials eventually backed off the plan – it made tickets difficult to transfer or resell – and scanned only 500-1,000 tickets at each game rather than all tickets.
The plan was aimed at deterring scalpers and soccer hooligans. But initially it caused long lines and criticism from fans and soccer’s world governing body FIFA, which said it was too strict and elaborate.
Microchips are embedded in all Beijing Olympics tickets, but only opening and closing ceremony tickets contain the photos and passport data. This makes them – in theory – nontransferable. The other tickets are transferable, and the RFID technology is being touted as an anti-counterfeit device. That’s useful in China, which produces an array of fake products from DVDs to heart medicine.
Ticketmaster China, the official ticketing provider for the games, predicts every event in every venue will be sold out – an Olympic first.
“We noticed the problem in Germany in 2006, and we learned a lesson from them,” said Yang Yichun, director of the technology department for the Beijing organizing committee. “We have made contingency plans to deal with any potential problems.”
The Minister of Science and Technology Wan Gang attended a World Cup game in Dortmund two years ago and is confident Beijing’s technology is better.
“We’re fully prepared and we are confident we can overcome all the difficulties,” Wan said.
Clarke, the Australian security expert, said inaccurate data, ticket holders mixing up tickets and the possibility for identity theft were likely.
“If somebody is handing out six tickets to six people, they somehow have to shuffle these tickets successfully to get the right ticket in the right hands,” Clarke said. “If they fail and then people are separated in the queue, we’ll get enormous delays at the gates.”
The International Olympic Committee has said it is comfortable with Beijing’s ticketing security. IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said the RFID technology was “tested thoroughly by BOCOG this summer and satisfied both BOCOG and the IOC that the technology is sound.”
Xu Chaoying, one of China’s leading experts in RFID, is the general manager of Beijing Dalang Telecom Co. Ltd., which lost its bid for the Olympic RFID contract. Xu called RFID “mature technology” and discounted the comparison to Germany.
“For the 2006 World Cup, the main problem was about privacy,” Xu said. “People doubted whether the data in the tickets would be completely deleted. But as for the technology, there shouldn’t be any problem.”
Xu said it was possible the wireless technology could be disrupted, but any problems would be easy to fix.
Clarke disputed this. He said if Chinese officials choose to use a rudimentary RFID system, it would expose the data to easy theft. A more secure system using encrypted data would reduce that risk, but raise the chances of chaos at the gate.
He said the high-tech ticket might also distract from procedures like frisks and bag checks.
“There’s always a risk when you start putting efforts into an inappropriate mechanism that you deflect resources away from the important ones,” Clarke said. “You reduce your effectiveness in finding flags and bombs and weapons because you’ve got too many people spending too much time worrying about other things.”